Robert Christgau on Dreezy's Step Up and Dua Saleh's Spooky, Abstract Rap

The Dean of American Rock Critics also reviews Bali Baby's 'Resurrection.'

The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it—the music editor of the Village Voice from 1974 to 1985 and its chief music critic for several decades after that. At the Voice he created both the annual Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll and his monthly Consumer Guides. Christgau was one of the first critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." He taught at New York University between 1990 and 2016, and has published six books, including his 2015 memoir Going Into the City . A seventh, Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017 , is now available from Duke University Press. Every Friday we run Expert Witness, the weekly version of the Consumer Guide he launched in 2010. To find out more, read his welcome post; for almost five decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.


Dua Saleh: Nūr (EP) (Against Giants) In which Saleh, a Twin Cities-based nonbinary Sudanese refugee with a sociology degree, hooks up with Psymun, a Twin Cities-based noise-ambient beatmaker with Future and Young Thug credits. Over five spooky, sexy, abstract, rapped-sung tracks, they prove either that they were made for each other or that the EP format was made for them, matching weirdness for weirdness for 21 minutes without ever getting too cute or abandoning what groove they have at their disposal. As arty types go, they're not only smart but gritty. Fess up—wouldn't you be impressed if Future made something fetching of a stanza that went "You still taste like Beverly Hills/Oh, how cavalier/I just learned the weather could kill/Allegedly"? A MINUS


Dreezy: Big Dreez (Interscope) With CupcakKe triple-X-ing street-rap bravado on one side of her and Noname soft-slamming grace notes and sex rhymes on the other, Chicago's major-label female hip-hopper had more to prove than she figured in 2016, when her debut album's failure to crack the top 100 seemed a mere bump in the road. Not that she's topped the competition. But her only misstep here is a new Jeremih collab where—inevitably in a world where good sex is so often a stroke of luck—their concerted attempt to top the relaxed "Body" with the overreaching "Ecstasy" comes off forced and stiff. Romantic duets with Jacquees and Derez De'Shon aim lower and hit higher, however, and in general she sidles into money and fame brags with a reassuring ease that coexists nicely with her pitch-corrected raps and croons. So not only is she still in the game, she's upped her own. B PLUS

bali baby

Bali Baby: Resurrection (Twin) An out lesbian whose vibe is so playful it's almost girl-group and whose trademark sound is a juicy, squealed "mwah," Bali Baby calls women bitches and regularly threatens to steal the hot ones from her male musical rivals. Sometimes I think she's a riot, other times not—bragging that your "lyric's spreading, like it's some cancer" is as inept as similes get. Thus I much preferred the earlier, quirkier Baylor Swift, with its wacky fuck-you title and affecting vulnerable side. But in the end, she's so irrepressible I can't say no. B PLUS